Paul Barrere, the singer-guitarist who was instrumental in keeping the group Little Feat going for decades after the death of founder Lowell George, has died at 71.
Barrere died from the complications of liver cancer, which he’d been diagnosed with in 2015, following a battle with Hepatitis C that first came to light in 1994. In early October, it was announced that he needed to drop out of the band’s 50th anniversary tour, which was set to end this weekend. He had vowed to improve to be able to play at their annual festival in January.
Bonnie Raitt was among those mourning his passing, tweeting, “Oh my God. I just heard about the passing of another dear friend, Little Feat’s Paul Barrere. A brilliant guitarist, singer and songwriter — a cornerstone of one of the greatest bands of all time. … I’m glad he is free of pain and may he rest in peace. … We will hold him in our hearts and celebrate his life and music always.”
Barrere was not an original member of Little Feat, but joined three years into the group’s tenure, in 1972, in time for one of their most enduring albums, “Dixie Chicken.” During the original run of the band, before George died, Barrere co-wrote some of their signature songs, including “Skin It Back,” “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now,” “Down on the Farm” and “Time Loves A Hero.”
After George died in 1979, the group disbanded, and Barrere released a pair of solo albums, before Little Feat reformed in 1987, overcoming fans’ suspicions about how they would go with a successful resumption that involved occasional studio albums and regular touring.
Barrere was known for his collaborations outside of Little Feat, too. He played with Phil Lesh & Friends in that ensemble’s early days, and in recent years frequently toured with fellow Feat member Fred Tackett as a duo.
Barrere had played with the group at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in May.
Little Feat (which at present consists of Bill Payne, Sam Clayton, Fred Tackett, Kenny Gradney and Gabe Ford) issued a statement Saturday night, as follows:
It is with great sorrow that Little Feat must announce the passing of our brother guitarist, Paul Barrere, this morning at UCLA Hospital. We ask for your kindest thoughts and best wishes to go out especially to his widow Pam and children Gabriel, Genevieve and Gillian, and to all the fans who were his extended family.
Paul auditioned for Little Feat as a bassist when it was first being put together — in his words, “as a bassist I make an excellent guitarist” —and three years later joined the band in his proper role on guitar. Forty-seven years later, he was forced to miss the current tour, which will end tomorrow, due to side effects from his ongoing treatment for liver disease.
He promised to follow his doctor’s orders, get back in shape, and rock on the beach at the band’s annual gathering in Jamaica in January 2020. “Until then,” he wrote, “keep your sailin’ shoes close by… if I have my way, you’re going to need them!”
As the song he sang so many times put it, he was always “Willin’,” but it was not meant to be. Paul, sail on to the next place in your journey with our abiding love for a life always dedicated to the muse and the music. We are grateful for the time we have shared.